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Sunday, January 21, 2007

 

Ariel Ortega

Not too long ago the media here was running hot that Ariel Ortega, flawed Argentine genius, was being lined up for a move to Jakarta. Being a rumour I didn't pay too much heed to it, it was after all the silly season. Anyway a lok at his track record with other clubs told me he was slightly unstable and not one to build a team around, especially in Jakarta where he could soon get the hump. Anyway, just came across this blog on the Guardian which i have copied and pasted but the link at the bottom will take you to the comments there


Ariel Ortega - just an ordinary genius
Despite the lurid headlines, the gifted Argentinian forward known as the little Donkey is not mad, merely imperfect.
Marcela Mora y Araujo
January 18, 2007 12:11 PM
"A scandal of violence, depression and madness" was the headline on one of the hundreds of articles about Ariel 'El Burrito' Ortega's latest fall from grace. Naturally, I read on. Another lead with: "Ortega will define his future in the next few hours". Wow! What a feat. How many can boast as much?
Earlier this week, Ortega looked fit and radiant. After a match in which he provided one assist and scored one goal from a penalty for River Plate, he was all grins on the beach, posing for photographs with children and signing autographs. He was feeling great, he told newspapers and TV stations. Manager Daniel Passarella echoed the sentiment, praising his game and adding that he had been "observing him psychologically". "He's on the right track," the manager known as The Kaiser told a press conference.
Less than 24 hours later, Ariel went on a bender with some team-mates, returning to the team hotel in a state of inebriation described by agencies as "violent" and "mad". The mood in the River camp went sombre as Ortega was escorted by the medical team away from the beach resort and back to Buenos Aires amid speculation that he would be institutionalised for a thorough detox.
Just a couple of months short of his 33rd birthday, El Burrito - 'the Little Donkey' - has been through everything imaginable in the professional footballers life. Born in extreme poverty in the northern province of
Jujuy, he has known World Cup controversies on a par with anything endured by David Beckham or Zinédine Zidane.
He was called to carry the heavy honour of wearing Argentina's No10 shirt in 1994, after Diego Maradona's ephedrine-induced retirement from the US World Cup. As Maradona's substitute throughout the qualifiers, the two became close. "Everyone thinks El Burrito is a little idiot but I think he is very intelligent," Maradona said of him years later. "We shared a room for a while but he was moved out because executives from his club, River, thought I would fill his head with ... whatever was in mine." Maradona was impressed by the way El Burrito "spoke to me like a man" - "He knew all about the drug problems in his province; he spoke to me about how professional he was and also about how unprofessional he could be just because he fucking felt like it."
One example to illustrate the latter point can be found in the 1998 World Cup. He had scored twice against Jamaica but the real test of endurance came in the quarter-final against Holland, when shortcomings in frustration management drove him to headbutt Edwin van de Sar. Ten-man Argentina went on to be eliminated. Ortega was neither blamed nor vilified after the incident, perhaps because
Dennis Bergkamp's Maradonic goal left no room for argument as to who deserved the victory, perhaps also because 'Orteguita' has a safe place in the nation's heart. People warm to him. He went on to play in Argentina's 2002 World Cup campaign, all three games of it.
At club level, he was recently identified by a Gazzetta dello Sport investigation as one of the worst investments in Serie A ever. He moved from Valencia to Sampdoria and then on to Parma before moving to Fenerbahce for $15m. He barely lasted 11 games in Turkey before making a swift exit on the grounds that he was finding it difficult to adapt. HIs integration was not helped a trick played by Besiktas fans: before one big game against Fener, the fans prepared a huge banner reading, in Turkish, "Brave Heart Ortega" - but below that in huge print was a Spanish phrase: "Cobarde Gallina Ortega" (Coward Hen Ortega). After masquerading as ticketless Fener fans, the cunning Besiktas loyalists asked a real group of Fener fans to bring the banner into the ground and display it prominently so that Ortega be made aware of the great affection they have for him. The Fener fans, who didn't speak a word of Spanish, agreed. If El Burrito looked up at his own supporters' terrace, he would have read the
vitriol. Soon, however, he was on his way out of Turkey, walking out on Fener, who later successfully called on Fifa to punish him for breach of contract. He was banned for 19 months.
He finally returned to the pitch with Newell's Old Boys and eventually moved back to River Plate, where he had begun his career in 1991, coincidentally also under manager Daniel Passarella. In the club's glorious 2000-01 season, he was hailed as one of the fantastic four little dribblers - along with Pablo Aimar, Juan Pablo Angel and Javier Saviola.
A typical Argentinian exponent of the art of the gambeta, Orteguita has delighted many with his
fancy footwork, and his pure love for the game is as contagious as it is evident. He is happy playing football. His critics accuse him of a certain degree of selfishness, but many more have expressed great sympathy with his current predicament.
El Burrito has seemingly always been sparring with his internal demons, and forever losing a battle against alcoholism. This week's incident is only the most recent entry on a long list of offences, ranging from sneaking off during hugely important international tours to crashing cars while under the influence.
Passarella, whose son died in a car crash, has always tended to Ortega with the concern of a father. This week, reporters claim he has been sitting on a ball during training and just gazing into the distance, a man disheartened by the failings of his protegé. Passarella took a gamble bringing Orteguita back to River last season, and he wanted to believe it would work. Now, club suits and medics are meeting with the player in the hope of resolving a situation that once again will involve issues of fees, contracts and rehab. Harangued by the press, the player insists he will take this one step at a time. Passarella's personal disappointment might well be hardest pain to bear for Orteguita.
Perhaps the most brutal aspect of this supposed tale of madness and depression is the fact that it is no such thing. It is simply a commonplace tale of addiction, something which afflicts professional sportsmen worldwide. "I recall the English idol Paul Gascoigne," says Argentinian sports psychologist Marcelo Roffe. "In his case I believe it was recommended that the best therapy would be to continue playing. In Ortega's case it's not so clear that to play on is advisable. Abstinence is hard to carry, and in his case it is possibly mixed up with the notion of retirement, something for which 90% of footballers are unprepared. Top-flight sport has a psycopathological aspect and among so much business and efficiency the demands are huge, as is the pressure to succeed. The question is, how long are River prepared to wait given what they paid?"

original here

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